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Update 11/30/09 – More on Memphis Animal Shelter; Hundreds of Unexplained Deaths – VIDEO

Update 11/10/09 – Memphis Animal Shelter, Two Weeks Later – VIDEO

This cute little 6-month-old puppy, listed on paperwork as Puppy 199287, was admitted to the Memphis Animal Shelter on August 18. By all accounts a healthy little puppy but by September 4, only 16 days later, this little puppy was dead, a victim of starvation at the hands of the Memphis Animal Shelter! Necropsy results should that the puppy hadn’t eaten in at least three days, a necropsy cannot tell beyond that point but it’s obvious from the picture below that it was a lot longer than three days, there was no fat, no muscle left on the 6 month-old puppy’s little body.  In less than three weeks, Memphis Animal Shelter turned a healthy 6-month-old puppy into a living skeleton!

It was pictures of this poor tortured baby, taken by an anonymous informant that led to Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies to launch the raid on the shelter last week.

“We did find some animals that were apparently not well-cared for today,” said Steve Shular, a spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. “We did find some animals that were malnourished.”

Volunteers from all over flew into Memphis to evaluate the animals, more than 200 dogs and cats, that were at the shelter. The found many malnourished, little food or water, sick animals housed with animal that weren’t sick. animals that were being quarantined for rabies house with the general population, vicious dogs housed with docile dogs. Deplorable conditions in the kennels and a number of dogs, at least three, starved to the point where they died or euthanization was necessary.

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This picture was taken when the 6-month-old puppy was admitted
to the shelter on August 18 as part of an animal cruelty investigation.

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This picture of the same puppy was taken just two weeks later.
The puppy died on September 4, starved to death at the hands of
employees at the Memphis Animal Shelter.

The warrant cites a case where a dog was brought in looking healthy and in less than a month was found dead in its cage.

In fact, the warrant contains a report stating three dogs died from starvation and their deaths were a direct result of lack of care at the Memphis Animal Shelter.

The warrant says an animal autopsy shows the dog had not in eaten in three days, and had no fat on its body.

The warrant says numerous emails were sent to Ernest Alexander, Kenneth Moody, Angela Middleton and Ivan Russell detailing conditions, even including photos. Alexander is shelter administrator, Moody is a division director, Middleton is a Veterinarian and Russell is a Field Supervisor (News 3)

View and download the warrant HERE

View and Download pictures HERE (pictures include those shown above and are disturbing)

The death rate for animals in the shelter has risen dramatically in the past few years; from 75 in 2006 to 119 in 2007 to 193 in 2008. And complaints about the shelter have also been rising for years, complaints about sick and malnourished dogs, dirty conditions, rude employees but it took graphic pictures to finally get anything done.

City Animal Services administrator Ernest Alexander (current salary, $92,400)  and at least 10 employees were temporarily relieved of duty, with pay, during the investigation. Amazingly enough, the shelter is back open for business and all employees have returned to their jobs!!

Volunteers and shelter employees have complained about the shelter, the condition, the treatment of animals for some time but no one has listened.

Theresa Sanders, who has rescued numerous animals from the shelter, says she’s tried to blow the whistle before about poor conditions at the shelter. “It was a long time coming. I have spoken out, the volunteers have spoken out, and some of the employees have spoken out before, and it seemed like we were talking to deaf ears,” Sanders says. “Somebody got the message to the right person.”

Instead of a complete overhaul, which I cannot believe anyone doesn’t think is needed, Mayor AC Wharton has formed an Animal Shelter Task Force to work as an advisory board and oversee the shelter.

Task Force members, which met for the first time last Friday include;

  • A C Wharton, Mayor
  • Jack Sammons, CAO
  • Janet Hooks, Director of Public Services and Neighborhoods
  • Shea Flinn, Councilman
  • Dr. Chuck Brady, President of the Memphis Zoo
  • Dr. Steven Tower, Memphis Animal Clinic
  • Donald Burch, III, Memphis Animal Clinic
  • Dr. Loran Snow, Berclair Animal Hospital
  • Keith Robinson, Former Assistant Director of Animal Services for the City of Nashville
  • Margot McNeely, Former Memphis Zoo Employee and Animal Lover
  • Lucky Shaw, Former CEO and President of the MED and Animal Lover
  • Holly Harris, Volunteer and Animal Advocate
  • Sherry Rout, ASPCA
  • Frank Jones, Retired 43 year Memphis Animal Control Employee

The agenda covered during Friday’s meeting was:

  • Best practice procedures
  • Training and retraining of shelter staff and personnel
  • Expanding use of spay and neutering
  • More robust plans for animal adoption at the shelter

One of the changes that will be implemented is that security video cameras will be installed throughout the shelter.

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“It could be several months before any criminal complaints or indictments are handed down or are in place. But we can’t wait that long. This is why we are doing our own assessment of this situation with the help of professionals. And we will decide if discipline or termination is called for or warranted,” said Mayor Wharton.

District Attorney Bill Gibbons says he will consider charges once the investigation is complete. “At this point I would say we’re looking at anyone we have possible evidence on from top to bottom,” Gibbons says.

A White Collar Crime Unit has even been called to get involved with the investigation to look through shelter paperwork for improprieties.  You can see from a July 2009 Audit (see HERE) that there were noted paperwork problems then, who knows what, if anything was actually done!

Based on what has been brought to light so far, I cannot believe they are letting the same people back to work in the shelter and the same director to run things. When someone is making almost $100K to run an animal shelter, to oversee employees, to make sure that conditions are in good order and animals are being well cared for, don’t you think that they could be considered as not doing their job when you find problems like this?

This whole thing is an abomination and a complete cleaning out needs to happen NOW!! Not months from now! Those involved need to be fired and charged with animal cruelty at a minimum!

Contact Info
Memphis Animal Services

3456 Tchulahoma Road
Memphis, TN 38118
Phone: (901) 362-5310
TTY: (901) 576-6501

Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.
City Hall
125 N. Main St. Room 700
Memphis, Tn 38103
Phone: (901) 576-6000

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